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Mike Candel among Nassau Sports High School Athletics Hall of Fame inductees

Michael Candel speaks during a press conference for his

Michael Candel speaks during a press conference for his Nassau County Sports High School Athletics Hall of Fame induction on June 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Michael Candel speaks during a press conference for his Nassau County Sports High School Athletics Hall of Fame induction on June 14, 2017.

Mike Candel could type fast, write fast and think fast, which helped him add sports writing to his resume that also included coaching and teaching at Nassau Community College.

Candel’s knowledge of sports — he was a successful basketball and lacrosse coach at Nassau CC — and his many incisive, detailed stories were recognized Wednesday when he was announced as one of 31 inductees into the Nassau County Sports High School Athletics Hall of Fame at a news conference at Nassau Coliseum. “I’m kind of in awe about being in with people I watched as a kid. Compared to the athletes, I feel unworthy, but as a contributor, I feel worthy because I know what I did for 25 years.”

He didn’t think Nassau CC’s sports programs were receiving enough publicity so he began writing weekly articles for the Long Island Press. Candel then got an opportunity to work at the now-defunct daily newspaper and recalled his first day on the job, when he was supposed to take scores over the phone. “The writer assigned to a big high school football game was in a car accident and they sent me,” Candel recalled. “They liked my story and the editor said, ‘You’re going to cover high school games for us.’ ’’

So began a long writing career, most of which was spent at Newsday, where Candel covered high school and college sports from 1976 until his retirement in 2002. He joined Newsday shortly after the Press folded. “I came to work to find padlocks on the door; no notice,” Candel said. “I was really fast so Newsday hired me because they figured I could help by taking scores on the phone. I did that for a year and then they started sending me out to cover games. Eventually I did a lot of high school and college basketball. There was a period from the beginning of January to the end of March where I didn’t have a night off.”

Russ Cellan, Freeport’s current football coach and 2017 inductee, said he was “more than a little overwhelmed. You wonder how this happened. I’ve been blessed to work at a place with great athletes and great coaches.”

As for a favorite memory, Cellan recalled this moment involving Marlon Greenwood, a former Red Devil who starred at Syracuse University and in the NFL and was in the initial class of the Nassau hall of fame.

“He was a soccer player who kicked for us. Our first game, we’re playing Plainview and we’re killing them. He’s kicking the ball through the end zone on kickoffs but he can’t hit the extra points. It was different for him, timing and all that. So it’s the third quarter, and we score again. The game is way out of hand and I call a timeout. I take out my wallet and pull out a dollar and I say, ‘I’ll bet you a dollar you miss.’ So he goes out there and he splits the upright. I had the dollar in my hand and he comes running off the field and snaps the dollar out of my hand. I figured he was going to go get a Gatorade.”

Then comes the punch line that Cellan clearly relished. “About six or seven years later I’m over his house, he’s in the NFL, and he’s showing me all the stuff on his wall and in his room and I start looking at his scrapbook. I flip the page and there’s the dollar bill. It was incredible. ‘That’s the dollar bill. You remember that?’ How could I forget that?”

Administrator inductee Pat Pizzarelli, a long-time athletic director at Lawrence and state football executive, had a similar recollection. “We had a reunion of the 1984 Plainedge team [for which he was the defensive coordinator for the Nassau champions]. We shut out Garden City and Bethpage in the playoffs and had six shutouts in 10 games that year. Fifteen guys from that team showed up, some with their kids. We had a tape of the championship game playing on tape on the TV in the bar. One of them said, ‘I’m telling my son some of the same stuff you told me.’ How can you not love something like that?”

Former East Meadow (and Hofstra) softball star Crystal Boyd, an athlete inductee, said she appreciated the honor because, “We didn’t have a great program but we tried hard and came together as a team. I always did my best and it’s great to get recognized this many years later. I remember having a great time and loving the sport and I hope kids are in it today for the love of the sport and not just to look for a scholarship.”

Candel was moved to tears when he recalled “one of my favorite stories” involving former Uniondale football coach Greg Didio. “They had never won a championship. His wife got sick with cancer and I did a story about him coaching and also being her caretaker,” Candel said. “She died like two days before the (1996) Nassau County championship. Her last words to him were, ‘I’m going to be watching over your shoulder. You’re going to win it this year.’ They won it. I covered the game.”

NASSAU COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME

2017 INDUCTEES

ADMINISTRATORS: Frank Saracino, Dr. Santo Barbarino, John Kickham, Alfred Kumerow, Patrick Pizzarelli

ATHLETES: Derrick Adkins, Hank Bjorklund, Crystal Boyd, Stephen Boyd, John DeTommaso, Warren Koegel, Danielle Gallagher, Scottie Graham, Steven Hunte, John Mackey, Don McCauley, Don McPherson, Billy Wilson

COACHES: Russ Cellan, Peter Cerrone, George A. Craig, Becky Crawford, Angelo Giugliano, Carol Ann Habeeb-Kiel, Bernard Hintz, Francine Nocella, Steve Shippos, Kenneth Sicoli

CONTRIBUTOR: Michael Candel

OFFICIALS: Ginny Gandolfo, Roger Glazer

New York Sports